Christmas 2013



Well, it’s over. The kids are all busy playing with their new toys. I’m busy cleaning up and preparing for a new year. This Christmas had been difficult for many of us. Weeks leading up to Christmas, all I wanted to do was just sleep it off.  Collectively as a nation, we felt so much loss amidst all the tragedies this year. But no one really knows how to cope with loss unless it happens to you. In my Facebook alone, at least five friends lost a loved one within the past few days. But Christmas went on. I felt the love. And I’d like to think I gave my love back.

I hope you and your families had a wonderful time. Sharing with you some snippets of the past season. I miss it already.


We kicked off the Christmas season in Singapore in early December. This was taken at the beautiful Gardens by the Bay.


Scan 2
The kids didn’t really ask for major things. Every night our prayers always include the children and families affected by the war, earthquake and storm. On November 6th when the storm warning was serious, Sophia prayed — “Dear Papa Jesus, You don’t have to give me anything. I don’t really need much. But please, I ask that you save the people from the storm.” Two days after, Haiyan/Yolanda happened. Lily also learned about the suffering and damage caused by Yolanda. Her letter to Santa above shows how she cares. Sigh.


Sister love. Thank you Santa. #frozen
Santa came. Since Sophia had already bought Lily that simple book she asked for, Santa figured it out and gave them what he knew they really wanted (but was sold out in every toy store). Frozen dolls! Lily received Elsa and Stella got Anna. Sophia got more furniture for their Sylvanian Family house(s).


Speaking of Frozen, there was a nasty ice storm in Toronto that looked so beautiful in pictures. Because icicles formed on branches, a lot of trees fell breaking some power lines. My sister lost power in her house two days before Christmas. She didn’t have power=heat til Christmas Day.


At Noche Buena with my cousins, it is tradition that kids perform. Sophia did the Cup Song.


Lily performed Olaf’s song from the movie Frozen. She prepared her own props and choreography. Stella fell asleep by then. Poor kiddie wasn’t able to perform her act.


So instead, let me post this photo of me and Stella at Noche Buena minutes before she fell asleep. Oh yes, Stella and Soph are wearing the same exact Gingersnaps dress. It was so beautiful, both girls wanted it. I wanted it in my size too. Haha. Photo by Koko Roura.


We put up our non-designed tree and used the same ornaments. Each one has meaning. The tin toys were from our first Christmas after we got married. The wooden toys are from my mom and dad’s recent trip to Germany. The paper and cellophane flowers were made by our helper. The kids also added a paper garland they made.


The kids were able to share some of their artistic talents with the kids of Yolanda. My very charitable friend Chary Mercado had been organizing relief work for Yolanda-stricken areas. She needed some Christmas cards to go with all the gifts they were sending. The kids and their friends got together with Chary’s daughter and did over 200 cards.


Olaf and Frozen again. My girls are so into this Disney movie.


I spent a lot of time in the kitchen these past weeks. But on the actual day of Christmas, I had turkey and pasta cooked by a restaurant. (Are we the only ones who are zombies on Christmas Day? This tradition of Noche Buena is taken seriously in my dad’s family. So on Christmas Eve we eat at midnight and get home by 3 or 4am.) Re: recipes, I promise to share some of my “experiments” soon.


Sophia’s lovely Christmas poem


Attended a lovely wedding at the Shangrila amidst this beautiful Christmas lobby. And OMG, the photos on my Samsung camera get automatically backed up in some cloud and some of them get saved as GIFs. Haha. I have no idea how it does this. But this GIF makes me smile because of Patrick’s serious non-smile. Haha. It reminds me of the flip book we had made at the wedding as a souvenir.


Looking back, I don’t know how we all did it. Going through the Christmas rush of shopping and making it to lunches and dinners with friends. It is always so lovely to see old friends. These are my friends from childhood.


And my girlfriends Mel, Ingrid and Fiona. We had too much fun talking, eating and drinking that we only took one lousy photo.


One thing I won’t miss is the crazy traffic. But who knows if it was seasonal or if it really is just that bad all the time. I hope not.


Wishing you more days of relaxation, reunions, detoxification and all that. And more importantly I pray for peace in our hearts and that includes the feeling of safety for all of us. Merry Christmas to you my dear readers and friends!




Dont let labels hold you back




This local Pantene ad has touched millions of people. I’ve been thinking of its very powerful message.


Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook Inc., in her own Facebook page says “this is one of the most powerful videos I have ever seen illustrating how when women and men do the same things, they are seen in completely different ways.”


Pantene Sheryl


I am a fan of Sandberg’s book Lean In. We are raising three young daughters to believe they can achieve anything they want and go anywhere in the world in the future. Like Sandberg pointed out, the term “bossy” should not exist to reference young girls who show great leadership skills.

And yet in my own current experience, I am still going through the same struggles as a woman who represents herself and runs her own negotiations both in media and business. I have heard some negative comments and perceptions — labels.  When I first moved to the Philippines, I was advised to soften up and not be too direct. That’s the least; I’ve heard worse.

Meanwhile back in the house, I struggle with the guilty feeling that I am still not giving enough time and attention to the children. I know that a lot of this is also self-inflicted judgement on myself. This is why I liked Sandberg’s book. She admitted that equality in the workplace can only be achieved if there is equality at home — shared responsibilities. In the home department, I lucked out.

Other sites like Huffington Post also carried the #whipit discussion. They praise the campaign for calling attention to double standard which will hopefully inspire some important conversations. See Huffington Post’s discussion here.

I’m curious to know what it’s like for you. I know I have a lot of smart and empowered women who read this blog. Share your thoughts with me.



No signal



Hi everyone. I hope you and your families were okay throughout the floods. This is happening way too often and it is getting really scary. I hope things change…

There are so many things I want to update you with but I can’t. Since yesterday my internet broadband at home has been down. I don’t know why this has been happening. A few weeks ago we had to buy a new modem from the same company. These things aren’t cheap. I’ve reported the situation via phone and twitter. Still no help.

This has been a recurring thing the past couple of months. Because of my fear of having no internet, a few weeks ago I even bought a pocket wifi and it cost me like P3,000. It’s a prepaid thing. Now I don’t even know how to load the mobile wifi gadget. And the website of the company offers no help.

My cellphone can be a 3G hotspot, but my phone company’s 3G has been intermittent.

None of this is flood or storm related.

It’s a bit frustrating.



Throwback to teen years




The video clip of Ashton Kutcher’s speech at the teen choice award was going around Facebook yesterday. It has since been taken down. (EDIT: I just found another upload and embedded it above). I hope you were able to watch it. He gave advice to young people about how to make the best out of life. His speech hit close to home not only because I’m a parent but also because it reminded me of my own path. I actually just had this same conversation with Patrick over the weekend – about what kind of teenagers we were.

I’d always been a hard worker. In school and in all my jobs. My first summer job was when I was 15. I worked at the Toronto Parks & Rec swimming pool. Then every summer after that was a job that got better. A wise person told me to choose summer jobs in the field where I’d like to work in. But how do you know what you want when you’re 16?

There was only one job that I hated – the one when my brother and I applied at the CNE one summer. The CNE is an annual two week expo/fair that’s been around since the early 1900’s. He got a job making donuts and I got hired at the salami stand. There I was, a little teenager, slicing salami. I lasted only two days. Ashton Kutcher said, “I never had a job in my life that I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job. Every job I had was a stepping stone to my next job and I never quit my job before I had my next job.” He’s right. I could have stuck it out. But I was terrified of the knife.  So I quit on the second day and looked for a better job. I always felt lucky to be working. And I’m still terrified of slicing salami.


Notre Dame days
At a student council event. I was painfully shy, plus I was a new student (I moved to Toronto in Grade 8 but got accepted in Grade 9). Being smart got me places and gave me confidence.


In high school I was already thinking of my resume — so that I’d get in to the university of my choice. Since all universities in Canada were public, competition was really tough in the best schools like University of Toronto. I worked hard to get in to UofT. We were trained to make sure that everything we did took us a step closer to where we wanted to go. At 16, one’s resume was important. Those extra curricular activities mattered. I took on leadership roles at school – got elected to student council and became yearbook editor. Those had to count for something.


My Grade 12 Grad
My grade 12 graduation.


Notre Dame Semi-Formal
At our school semi-formal. We were nominated for school spirit. Holy 80’s fashion!


I worked through university. My parents covered tuition. Student loans covered books and living expenses. I paid for my sorority dues. I had a glam job in retail in a menswear store on Bloor Street where I met Don Johnson and Christopher Plummer. I chose menswear to avoid spending all my income on clothes. It was a struggle. I still spent a lot on clothes. I learned about budgeting and financial responsibility at an early age. Fashion had remained an important part of my world. And it didn’t mean over-spending.


Rush Week (During Frosh Week)
I continued doing extra curricular activities through university. This is the Pan-Hellenic organization – a mix of the various Greek communities (sororities).


Halfway through university I got an internship at Toronto City Hall. I took on every challenge and opportunity that came my way. Some of them included hours in the photocopy room. And yes, making coffee was sometimes part of it. But so were sitting in on meetings with the mayor and council, working with the Yorkville-Annex ward on their neighbourhood issues, and working on reports for the Waterfront redevelopment. My city hall internship went so well, the councillor hired me as staff in the summer. This stint landed me the best job after university – with a Canadian urban planning think tank that sent me on international assignments in my first year. That’s when my life changed and without any plans or roadmap, I got to where I am now.


My drawing was displayed in Toronto City Hall
With Toronto City Councillor John Adams. I was able to show my paintings and drawings at Toronto City Hall. It wasn’t part of my job. But I found an opportunity and went for it.


I have to admit, I’d been lucky. But hard work was always my mantra. I wanted to make things happen even though I was painfully shy. I found ways. I tried to learn a lot. Like in broadcasting – I stayed extra hours just to learn how to shoot, edit, write and produce. It wasn’t part of my job description as a news reader. I just wanted to learn more.

When I was still working at the TV network, someone from middle management told me that I didn’t have “it.” My name or face didn’t have any marquee value. It really made feel so bad. But Patrick said I was not in that job to sprint. He said I should stay and run the marathon. I still don’t have “it” – that definition of success on television. I’m glad I didn’t join that race though because that “it” doesn’t matter to me. I found something greater.

I’ve been writing this post for a whole day. I keep going back and editing. I don’t know why I felt compelled to write about the past. Getting old, perhaps. I hope my kids get to read this when they are teens. Their world is changing so fast, I hope their skills will be relevant. We are here to guide them and if that’s not enough I hope they hear a bit of what Ashton Kutcher said

– Opportunity looks a lot like hard work.

– The sexiest thing in the entire world is being smart. Be thoughtful and be generous.

– Everything around us that we call life was made up of people that are no smarter than you. And you can build your own things and you can build your own life that other people can live in.

“So build a life, don’t live one, find your opportunities and always be sexy.”


What were you like as a teenager? Do share some lessons you learned through your own journey…



Good Stuff // Col. Chris Hadfield



I’ve been following Col. Chris Hadfield on Twitter and Facebook. I love all his photos and updates from outer space. Col. Hadfield is the first Canadian Commander of the International Space Station.

Sophia and I spent the afternoon watching his you tube videos about life in the space station. Then we ended up in this particular video about how he achieved his seemingly impossible goal of becoming an astronaut.

I’ve achieved nowhere near what an astronaut has achieved. But I can totally relate to what he said. Someone wise once told me the same thing (I think it was our guidance councillor in my Toronto high school) — that everything you do should add up to getting you closer to your end goal. I was in my mid-teens and I was already thinking of how my resume would look and this affected the kind of summer job I chose, the courses I specialized in and the extra-curricular activities I joined. And I had fun along the way.

Col Hadfield says it better.  Hope you find inspiration in this clip.



“Don’t measure the success of your life by one thing at the end. Measure the success of your life by each of the small victories along the way.” Col. Chris Hadfield.